Just for fun I bring you a mixed perspective composite Monarch photograph.
I am sure you will agree with me that Monarch Butterflies are magnificent.
Just for fun I bring you a mixed perspective composite Monarch photograph.
It's becoming late in our New Zealand Monarch Butterfly season. The weather is cooling, as sunny days give way to cooler rainy days.
Although there are still Monarchs flying, they are perhaps not being seen as often as we saw them in mid Summer.
In our garden the aphids have almost disappeared from the swan plants (milkweed), as have their predator ladybirds. Wasp numbers have lessened dramatically and, although one or two Asian Paper Wasps can still be seen flying in the garden, we know they are no longer searching for the protein foods of Monarch eggs and caterpillars, but rather are going for sweet nectar foods instead.
Because the wasp danger has passed, we are now seeing Monarch eggs freely hatching and caterpillars growing on our plants outdoors. The other side of this, however, is that in the cooler temperatures the caterpillars have become slower in their growth rate and chrysalis's are taking up to 15 days before the butterfly emerges (usually it's about 10 days).
This morning we saw off this beautiful male monarch. At this time of year in New Zealand we tag the new monarchs as a way of learning more about their cold weather journeys.
Click on the picture to see a larger view.......
It's early March and nearing the end of a stunning 2016 New Zealand Monarch Butterfly summer. We live in the "Winterless North" of the country, so our summer tends to stretch way beyond the boundaries of Autumn and even into Winter.
Sometimes I think the weather gods have no idea that we humans have designated seasons of the year, and what months they fall in, because our weather here just happens as it chooses.
It's been a fabulous summer. One of the best. Our plants and trees have bloomed longer than usual, our insects have multiplied in big numbers and our birds are looking great.
Best of all, we have many many butterflies. They're everywhere we look.
I love all butterflies however this post is about Monarchs - the Monarchs I've been seeing aplenty. In our garden (flowers planted especially for them) the Monarchs swoop through all day, each day, and it's a joy to see. They seem to have a specific flight path that they glide around on. Sometimes if several meet mid-air, they do little twirls together as they pass one another, before gliding off on their flight paths again.
Here are just a few that I've seen lately, both in our garden and generally around in our area.
Click on each picture, below, to see a larger view.
It is now late January and we are at last seeing more Monarchs flying in our garden.
Ours is an area filled with more native New Zealand plants and trees, than anything else, which are not Monarch food. Some people in this area grow swan plants (milkweed) in their gardens for the Monarchs to enjoy. Thus we are seeing more Monarchs flying about each day, as the new generations emerge into our Summer.
Unfortunately the imported Asian Paper Wasp is very plentiful this Summer. They eat the Monarch eggs and the Monarch caterpillars, which dwindles our Monarch population to a large degree. Many of us raise the Monarch caterpillars under cover, away from the wasps, as a way to ensure their population continues.
Yesterday, to our great delight, we saw several Monarchs flying about our garden.
Imagine a garden without monarch predators.
If a pair of monarchs came into a New Zealand garden on 1 September and the female started laying eggs, consider this.........…
Scientific data tells us that each female monarch can lay 300 - 500, or even over a thousand, eggs. Let’s say she lays 500, of which half are females. So on or about 1 October these 250 females start laying and lay 250 x 250 = 62,500 eggs.
This continues all season. It’s a perfect season for monarchs. None of them are going to get diseases, eaten or parasitised.
1 December there are 15,625,000 eggs
1 January 3,906,250,000 eggs
1 February 97,656,300,000,000,000 eggs
1 March 24,414,100,000,000,000,000 eggs
That’s quite a few monarch butterflies flying around!
In the REAL world some monarch caterpillars are destined to feed other species – even the soil. We’re fortunate that monarchs slot into our New Zealand native ecosystem and don’t have any negative effect on our native plants or animal life.
If there were a lot of wasps (as in previous years) the monarchs wouldn’t “control” the swan plant and it could get listed as a pest plant, with the seed blowing into gardens, farmland and our NZ native forest.
REF: Moths and Butterflies of NZ Trust
January 10 at 8:29pm · Auckland ·
Click on each picture to see a larger view....
From the time of emerging from its egg a Monarch caterpillar will shed its skin 4 or 5 times before forming its chrysalis and subsequently emerging as a butterfly.
As the caterpillar grows, its exoskeleton (i.e. its outer cuticle/skin) becomes tight, so it sheds it. This process is called molting.
Ecdysone is the molting hormone of insects and it is this that causes an insect to molt.
The caterpillar releases an enzyme that dissolves the inner layer of its cuticle (skin). Then it expands its body and splits the cuticle to enable it crawl out of it. The critical part is dissolving the inner layer to separate themselves from it. Their cuticle isn't living like our skin (which is why, although we call it a skin, it isn't really 'skin') and is more like a fingernail. The head capsule is the first part of the old skin to come off during the molting process. Then the old skin peels back from the front of the caterpillar.
Caterpillars will do this four or five times as they grow. Each different growth stage is called an instar.
Edith Smith - http://www.butterflyfunfacts.com/
One of the natural world's most fascinating mysteries, the Mountain of Butterflies, was unlocked 41 years ago, on 9 January 1975.
The discovery of the overwintering place of the graceful monarch butterfly had taken several decades of searching by thousands of volunteers.
On 9 January 2016 Google has commemorated this fact, with the above doodle created by artist Kevin Laughlin, on their search engine's home page in various regions of the world.
After trekking across an entire continent for an answer, it was a team led by Canadian zoologist Fred Urquhart that finally tracked the resting place of the butterflies as they made their migratory journeys south.
Ken Brugger and Catalina Trail's determination helped the team find the answers they had been looking for. The butterflies attach themselves to oyamel trees in the Sierra Madre Mountains, in eastern Mexico.
The monarch butterfly is under threat due to climate change and deforestation in the country, where the species migrates to from the the US and Canada in winter.
REF: Daily Telegraph
Click on each picture to see a larger view. Pictures REF: Texas Butterfly Ranch
Excerp from a communication from Catalina...
Founder of the Monarch Butterfly Roosting Sites in Mexico
Lives a Quiet Life in Austin, Texas
Posted on July 10, 2012 by Monika Maeckle
I am the only living member of the team who discovered the Monarch Butterfly overwintering sanctuaries in Mexico in 1975. The discovery was published by National Geographic Magazine in August, 1976. My picture is on the cover. I was referred to as Cathy back then…I have been here in Austin living a quiet life and I am interested in participating in your Austin Butterfly Forum.
–Best regards, Catalina
National Geographic article written by Fred A. Urquhart, Ph.D.
Found at Last - The Monarch's Winter Home
By Fred A. Urquhart, Ph.D.This article was originally published in the August 1976 National Geographic.
"I gazed in amazement at the sight. Butterflies—millions upon millions of monarch butterflies! They clung in tighty packed masses to every branch and trunk of the tall, gray-green oyameltrees. They swirled through the air like autumn leaves and carpeted the ground in their flaming myriads on this Mexican mountainside.
Breathless from the altitude, my legs trembling from the climb, I muttered aloud, “Unbelievable! What a glorious, incredible sight!”
I had waited decades for this moment. We had come at last to the long-sought overwintering place of the eastern population of the monarch butterfly."
I photographed this female Monarch Butterfly swinging around the flowers in our garden, yesterday and made my first attempt at flight shots - not easy.
I'm amazed and delighted to have observed the amazing fluidity of this butterfly in flight.
That got me thinking about how a butterfly's wings can support it in flight and, why, does a butterfly seem to fly so erratically yet is actually very purposeful and directional?
A butterfly has four wings - two forewings and two hindwings. They are attached to the second and third thoracic segments (the meso- and meta-thorax). Strong muscles in the thorax move the wings up and down in a figure-eight pattern during flight.
To fly, a butterfly must obtain warmth from the sun by basking and exposing its thorax, where the muscles attach, or by creating warmth with rapid movements (much like humans warm up before exercising). (REF)
The wings of the butterfly are made of hard tubes covered with thin tissue. The wings are covered with scales, which are like a fine dust.
The scales form bright patterns, sometimes with a hidden ultraviolet pattern to attract mates. The bright colours also act as a deterrent to predators eating them. The scales may also form patterns that help the butterflies to blend into their background to escape predators. (REF)
Do read this wonderful account about butterfly flight and why it seems erratic.........
I'm back in the Monarch Butterfly raising business. Yay.
There isn't quite the space, here in our new property, compared to the previous place so I'm being creative.
Over the years I have found that one of my best assets for protecting Monarch caterpillars has been a cheap, nylon mosquito net. I hang the net from a high point and place pots full of growing swan plants (milkweed to those of you in other countries) under it. This keeps the caterpillars safe from the killer Asian Paper Wasps, and other flying insects that might damage/eat/kill the eggs and caterpillars.
Unfortunately this won't keep spiders, ants, earwigs and the likes, out, however they can be taken out as you see them inside the enclosure. I don't seem to get that many, especially if the base is on concrete.
Another important factor, for keeping your caterpillars safe from the wasps, is to make sure that no parts of the plants are touching the net. This is why I have put pieces of timber inside there, to push the shape of the net out past the plants.
I have seen wasps cling onto a net and kill a caterpillar that was busily eating a leaf against the net. The wasps suck out the caterpillar's insides and leave the skin.
As you can see, I weigh down the bottom edge of the mosquito net with pieces of old concrete, rocks or bricks - seems to work alright and these are easy to lift out when I need to make adjustments to the net or get inside it. I clip the front opening shut, using ordinary clip-type clothes pegs. They work just fine and it's easy to unclip them to get into the net when I need to.
The fine nylon mosquito net is quite strong enough for the task and I have had this particular green net for 4 years. They are cheap enough to replace, when needed. Any rips or tears are easily repaired. You need to do this quickly, if your net gets torn, otherwise wasps might get in.
I have not put all my swan plants under the net. I still have some growing in the garden and a few others growing in pots outdoors. These are where the Monarch butterflies lay their eggs and I will collect the eggs as I see them.
I place the Monarch eggs into a flat plastic container and will hatch them indoors. I have a damp paper towel in the base of the container and keep that damp so the leaf pieces don't fully dry out. Once the tiny caterpillars emerge, I will put them out on the plants under the net.
Click on each picture to see a larger view....
Yesterday another beautiful female Monarch Butterfly emerged from its chrysalis. All perfect.
She was extremely perky and was ready to fly quite quickly.
At this time of year our temperatures are warm and so the butterflies dry and are ready to fly in a shorter time, compared to later in the season when our temperatures are cooling.
The monarch's strong wings are its trademark. The black veins in the wings form a strong framework for gliding - just like the crossbars of a kite. That first glide that the Monarch takes, is such a joy to see and, once they have taken that first glide, I know they're well on their way to their butterfly life.
Butterfly wings are made of two chitonous layers (membranes) that are nourished and supported by tubular veins. The veins also function in oxygen exchange ("breathing"). Covering the wings are thousands of colorful scales, together with many hairs (setae). The name Lepidoptera (which includes butterflies and moths) means "scale wing" in Greek. These wing scales are tiny overlapping pieces of chitin on a butterfly or moth wing. The scales are outgrowths of the body wall and are modified, plate-like setae (hairs). The front and back of the wings usually have different patterns.
Scent scales are modified wing scales on the forewing of male butterflies and moths (on the costal fold) that release pheromones. These chemicals attract females of the same species. Scent scales are also called androconia.
REF: Enchanted Learning.com
Opua, New Zealand.
Keen butterfly photographer and raises Monarch Butterflies for release.
" I'm crazy about butterflies and enjoy sharing the beauty and wonder of their transformations."
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